Here we are again. Baltimore Beer Week turned 7 in 2015, just like my daughter. Both have grown considerably. In fact, Baltimore Beer Week's footprint now features events from Abingdon to Annapolis. Here's a look at some of the best and some of the newcomers.
"Beer week is sometimes about the business of beer, but this event is about getting back to the hobby and the history," said Chilibrew Communications Director Ryan Boddy. "This is a beer church, built on the backs of immigrant brewers," he said, referring to Zion Lutheran Church, which hosts the annual chili and homebrew contest (400 E. Lexington St., chilibrew.org) that makes you wonder who would sleep next to you after a night of over-consumption there. The answer: someone who really loves you, especially when you tell them it was all in the name of charity.
"There is a community here, and we're all in this together to make this city great. All of the charities we're donating to focus on the city and making the city a better place to live," said Boddy, a former CP contributor. Beneficiaries of the proceeds for the contest, which takes place Friday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m., include the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, FORCE, and The Baltimore Brew.
More homebrew, please
Baltimore homebrewers are "coming out of the woodwork," said Dominic Cantalupo, co-founder of Baltimore Beer Week, and as a result, there are more homebrewing events than ever during Beer Week. There's the annual Homebrew Showcase on Oct. 14, 6-10 p.m., at Little Havana to benefit BARCS (1325 Key Highway,  837-9903, littlehavanas.com) and the homebrew contest at Das Best Oktoberfest at M&T Bank Stadium lots on October 10 at 1 p.m. (1101 Russell St., dasbestoktoberfest.com). Then there's a gluten-free competition at Liam Flynn's Ale House on Oct. 11, 4-6 p.m. (22 W. North Ave.,  244-8447, pintsizepub.com), and a homebrew tasting at The Wine Source on Oct. 13, 5-7 p.m. (3601 Elm Avenue,  467-7777, thewinesource.com).
This year, we're also noticing more advanced classes for homebrewers. Gone are the introduction-to-homebrewing-style lectures. After seven years, Baltimore Beer Week thinks you've finally mastered the basics of cooking up a batch of malt extract in your kitchen and it's time to move up.
Explaining by analogy, Cantalupo said, "you could go to the grocery store, buy one of those cardboard pizza shells and pour some Don Pepino sauce and mozzarella cheese on it and call it pizza. Or you could spend a day and a half making your own dough and pressing your own tomatoes, and that's pizza. For homebrewing, that learning curve is steep, but Baltimoreans are getting damn good at the craft. It's no longer a hobby for some."
Nepenthe Homebrew has an "All-Grain & Kegging" class on Oct. 18 from 12:30 to 5 p.m. (3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 130A, 443-438-4846, nepenthehomebrew.com) to teach you how to make a proper mash and give up the nasty job of sterilizing empty beer bottles forever.
Mahaffey's Pub hosts what should be a doctorate-level homebrewing course: "The Art of Cask Building" with Steve Marsh on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. (2706 Dillon St.,  276-9899, mahaffeyspub.com). Marsh is the former cask master at Heavy Seas Beer*. BBW's Cantalupo called him "a prominent cask designer with a great grasp on cask beer, and the thing that makes him special is that he sources his ingredients from his backyard." At the event, Marsh will take you through the process of designing a cask from start to finish, from priming it to keeping it from clogging.
Tunes and booze
Live music and beer belong together. Baltimore Beer Week decided that they wanted to put more emphasis on music this year, according to Cantalupo. "As fate would have it, my band, Black Falls, booked a show back at Admiral's Cup back in January and it just happened to be the opening night of Beer Week," he said. BBW organizers decided to make it an official event and Black Falls will headline on Oct. 9, 9:30 p.m.-midnight (1647 Thames St.,  534-5555, theadmiralscup.com). The Cat's Eye Pub is also offering live music and different beers each night during the 10-day festivus. Black Falls will play Cat's Eye on Oct. 14, during BBW's Flagship Sponsor Heavy Seas Pint Night at the pub (1730 Thames St.,  276-9866, catseyepub.com).
Pedal power to the hops flower
On Oct. 18 at 10 a.m., an open group of BBW cyclists will depart the Earleigh Heights Park & Ride in Severna Park and head down the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail to sample from BBW sponsors. The first stop on the journey will be Heroes Pub in West Annapolis (1 Riverview Ave.,  573-1996, heroespub.com). After that, the thirsty travelers will visit Park Tavern in Severna Park (580 Ritchie Highway,  793-5930, parktavernsp.com). The 22-mile journey concludes back at Earleigh Heights with a visit to the Severna Park Taphouse (58 W. Earleigh Heights Road,  793-5759, severnaparktaphouse.com), which plans a Baltimore beer tap takeover if you still have the strength to drink.
Beers through the years
On Oct. 11, local history buffs and alcoholics will descend on Southeast Baltimore for a special tour with Cantalupo, beer author Maureen O'Prey, and maybe yours truly. Cantalupo spent his childhood in Brewer's Hill in the 1960s when it was called Highlandtown to avoid confusion with the run-down, rat-infested Canton, and his relatives owned bars in the neighborhood. The tour begins at 9:30 a.m. at the venerable Venice Tavern (339 S. Conkling St.,  732-3045). Easily one of Baltimore's best dive bars, Venice Tavern isn't opening early that day for the Beer Week Geeks. It always opens at 8 a.m. While the tour will conclude at Of Love and Regret at 1 p.m. in time for the Ravens game (1028 S. Conkling St.,  327-0760, ofloveandregret.com), there will be stops at rowhouses where the old Fort Marshall and Sebastian Helldorfer breweries were located and Cantalupo promises some surprises along the way.